FLL Airport Contractor Fired Three Workers After a Strike, Union Says

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Photo by tateyama /
In April, veteran CBS Miami investigative reporter Jim DeFede released a scathing report about two contractors at Miami International and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airports, in which workers alleged they were grossly underpaid, neglected, faced cockroach infestations, and had to create a food pantry so their underpaid coworkers could eat. In response, both companies — Envoy, an American Airlines subsidiary, and Eulen America, a contractor whose employees clean airline cabins and handle baggage — claimed their own employees were essentially lying and trumping up their claims with "false-flag attacks."

Now, the union that represents Eulen workers at FLL — 32BJ SEIU, part of the Service Employees International Union — says it plans to march through the airport's Terminal 2 at 11:30 a.m. today and protest once again. The union says Eulen fired three employees who'd taken part in strike actions against the company.

"I’ve been on the front lines at this airport, fighting for our rights at Eulen for years," one worker, Sandra Adams, said in a media release. "They finally succeeded in shutting me up."

Adams formerly cleaned Delta Airlines cabins at FLL. The union says Adams helped lead protests to ensure airport workers were included in Broward County's living-wage ordinance in 2015. At the time, the union says, she was homeless and sleeping at the airport between shifts because her wages — just $8.50 per hour — were so low that she couldn't find an apartment.

After this story was initially published, Eulen CEO Xavi Rabell denied through a spokesperson that the union’s complaints were accurate.

”Our employees are the heart and soul of Eulen America,” Rabell said in a written statement. “The allegations being made by the union are simply not true. We strive to offer our employees a great working environ- ment and opportunities for professional growth. Eulen America remains in full compliance with the Broward County Aviation Department’s rules and regulations to operate at FLL.”

But the stories laid out in previous reports are startling — Eulen workers told CBS earlier this year they're often asked to clean blood, feces, and other human bodily fluids out of plane cabins; made to travel in unsafe vans with seats sometimes tied down only with ropes or blankets; and forced to work on distressingly hot tarmacs without access to enough shade or water.

This is also not the first time Eulen has been accused of firing union protesters — in 2018, the National Labor Relations Board reportedly found that Eulen had fired a different FLL employee "because she engaged in union activity."

SEIU says Eulen fired Adams and two other FLL workers — Ahmet Elsheikh and Dafose Milord — after employees in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Dallas, and New York City organized protests over what workers said were "dangerous work conditions for cabin cleaners, including inadequate gloves, cleaning supplies, and lack of access to Hepatitis B vaccines" that Eulen refused to fix. After the strike, the union says Eulen started flipping around workers' schedules without notice and made multiple working moms pull shifts they called "impossible."
SEIU says Elsheikh and Milord had complained that their new schedules conflicted with their graduate-school courses and childcare responsibilities, respectively. But after the two complained that the shift changes seemed arbitrary and needlessly difficult, the union says Eulen confiscated their badges.

"I have a disabled child and family in Haiti to support," Milord said in a press statement. "I have always been a good employee and have never had any complaints. I just want to keep working so I can afford to pay my medical bills and school bills and take care of my kids."
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.